This item about exam reform has been sent out by Michael Gove. I would be interested in your views on it:
…..”The last Government utterly failed to provide an exams system that was fit for purpose. Exams were so afflicted by grade inflation and dumbing down that, even though official results soared, our performance in international tests stagnated. Every year, Labour ministers would point to constantly rising exam results and boast that this proved their policies were working. In fact employers and universities lost confidence, parents became disillusioned, and students were at best misled and at worst lied to about the value of the qualifications they were taking.
That is why this government is determined to restore integrity to the exams system, with new GCSEs and A levels which are inoculated against grade inflation and pegged to world’s best.
(Recently) we published revised content for GCSEs in science, history, geography and languages, which will be taught in schools from September 2016. This set out that:
- In science, the level of detail and scientific knowledge required will increase significantly, and there will be clearer mathematical requirements for each topic. Content will be added on topics including the study of the human genome, gene technology, life cycle analysis, nanoparticles and space physics.
- In history, every student will be able to cover medieval, early modern and modern history – rather than focusing only on modern world history, as too many students do now. British history will in future account for 40% of a GCSE, rather than 25% as now. There will also be an increase in the number of geographical areas pupils must study.
- In geography, the balance between physical and human geography will be improved – so that students will learn more about the world’s continents, countries and regions – alongside a requirement that all students study the geography of the UK in depth. Students will also need to use a wide range of investigative skills and approaches, including mathematics and statistics, and we have introduced a requirement for at least 2 examples of fieldwork outside school.
- In modern languages, greater emphasis has been placed on speaking and writing in the foreign language, thorough understanding of grammar, and translation from English into the foreign language. Most exam questions will be set in the language itself, rather than in English.
- Finally, ancient languages have been given a separate set of criteria for the first time, reflecting their specific requirements. Students will now need to translate unseen passages into English, and will have the option to translate short English sentences into the ancient language.
We also published revised content for A levels in English literature, English language, English literature and language, biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, history, economics, business, computer science, art and design and sociology, for first teaching from September 2015.
The content for these A levels was reviewed and recommended by Professor Mark E. Smith, vice-chancellor of Lancaster University, drawing on advice from subject experts from universities and elsewhere. We hope this input from higher education will mean these new A levels better prepare young people for progression to undergraduate study. The new content set out that:
- Mathematical and quantitative content has been strengthened in each of the sciences, computer science, economics and business: for example, understanding standard deviation in biology and the concepts underlying calculus in physics.
- In computer science, basic ICT content has been removed and emphasis has been placed instead on programming and far more detailed content on algorithms.
- In the sciences, there will also be a new requirement that students must carry out at least 12 practical activities, ensuring that they develop vital scientific techniques and become comfortable using key apparatus. At the moment, some students can take a science A level without having any practical work assessed at all.
- In history, as well as covering the history of more than one country or state beyond the British Isles, students will also now be required to study topics across a chronological range of at least 200 years, up from 100 years presently.
- In English literature, specified texts will include three works from before 1900 – including at least one play by Shakespeare – and at least one work from after 2000. We have also reintroduced the requirement for A level students to be examined on an ‘unseen’ literary text, to encourage wide and critical reading.
- Finally, in economics, content has been updated to include the latest issues, such as financial regulation and the role of central banks.
Alongside these announcements on the content of exams, Ofqual has set out how these new GCSEs and A levels should be assessed – with linear assessment rather than modules, and a greater focus on exams rather than controlled assessment.
New A levels and GCSEs in arts subjects from 2016
I also announced yesterday that a number of exams in other subjects will be reformed for first teaching from September 2016.
At GCSE, this includes art and design, music, drama, and dance, as well as five further subjects – citizenship, computer science, design and technology, PE, and religious studies. This means students will be able to access high-quality, rigorous GCSEs in the arts subjects at the same time as reformed GCSEs in languages, history, sciences and geography. Only GCSEs in English and maths will be reformed more quickly. At A level, music, drama, and dance, as well as design and technology, PE, and religious studies, will be reformed.
This announcement has been widely welcomed across the arts world and elsewhere. I am delighted that children will now be able to learn about Britain’s cultural heritage and develop their creativity while striving for qualifications on a par with those in academic subjects.
Overall, our changes will increase the rigour of qualifications, strengthening the respect in which they are held by employers and universities alike. Young people in England deserve world-class qualifications and a world-class education – and I hope you will agree that is what our reforms will deliver.”